Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Permaculture Projects: Flower/Plant Press

A simple, and simple to make, flower and plant press.

This is a project I plan to implement as soon as I can after moving to my land – the land I have not bought yet!

I love botany.  I love just about all there is to do with plants.  But, gosh, there are a lot of them!  I know I am much better than the average person at identifying plants; however, there is so much that I do not know.  One of the problems I have found with living all over the world, is that I have never become very good at identifying more than a handful of plants native to that one area.  Certain plants, especially certain species or genus of trees, are common enough that I can identify them fairly easily, but when it comes to shrubs and wildflowers… that is where I am at a lost.  I can only say, “Hey look at this… pretty, blue flower!”  so many times before it really bothers me that I do not know that name of it.

Orange Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida) specimen page.

My goal is to document every plant on my land.  I want to be able to identify it and know it like an old friend.  One way I am going to do this is with a plant/flower press.  I want to collect leaves, flowers, seeds, and fruit (if produced) from every plant on my property.  For fruit or other parts that will spoil, I plan on taking photographs.  Well, actually, I plan on taking photographs of everything specimen as well, but there is so much more you can get from a dried specimen than you can from a photograph.  Ideally, I will have the dried specimens mounted on a small piece of cardboard, sealed in plastic with a desiccant, labeled, and placed in a “catalog” along with photos and documentation of the cultivation and natural history of that plant - my own small herbarium.

Beautiful specimen page of a rare tree from Australia.
Grampians Gum (Eucalyptus verrucata)

Do I need to go to this trouble?  By no means.  However, I think it will be a fun project.  I think it will guarantee that I know and can identify the plants on my land. It will make me do the research to identify every possible function of that plant that may be beneficial to me – one of the goals of Permaculture.  I think it will be a great way to teach my kids the science of taxonomy and identification and the skills of photography and plant preservation.  It may also produce some beautiful pieces that blur the line between science and art.

This plant is native to Asia but has escaped cultivation in the U.S.
Glossy Privet (Ligustrum lucidum)

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